Looking to give his team a change of direction after their sluggish start to the season, Phoenix Coyotes coach Dave Tippett decided to start 26-year-old Chad Johnson at goal against the Nashville Predators Jan. 28.
The Coyotes came out fired up, attacking offensively early en route to a 4-0 victory in front of 8,581 fans at Jobing.com Arena.
“We were really solid on defense in the first period and we were able to go out and get him a goal early,” Tippet said. “Sometimes you just change goalies and it can change the psyche of our team.”
Johnson, who hasn't played in the National Hockey League since 2010-11, stopped all 21 shots he faced in recording his first career shutout.
“It’s nice to be part of the Coyotes organization and I was excited to get the call tonight,” Johnson said. “It feels good, you always want to get the first (shutout) out of the way. I was close in two of my previous games, but the two points was more important than the shutout for this team.”
The Coyotes struck first three minutes into the game when Keith Yandle took a pass down the side, fired a centering pass to Nick Johnson, who tipped the puck to Antoine Vermette, who knocked the puck into the back of the net past Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne.
“I got set up well and a nice tip pass (from Nick Johnson) and fired the shot that got past (Rinne),” Vermette said. “It’s always nice to score first but our main focus was not to turn pucks over and play a complete game.”
Johnson looked strong in goal in the first period, stopping all three shots he faced as the Coyotes defense tightened up, keeping the Predators on their heels.
“I wasn't nervous, it's been awhile since I have been in the NHL, but it felt good and I felt really comfortable,” Johnson said. “I was anxious to go and ready to battle and help this organization get a win that we needed.”
With the Predators on the power play in the first period, Chad Johnson made his first key save when Paul Gaustad took the puck in front, tried to push it into the net, but Johnson stopped it with his glove.
“I thought we did a good job of limiting them to one or two shots and we did a good job of clearing out the puck,” defenseman Keith Yandle said. “But I thought (Johnson) was great and controlled the rebounds. He played like a guy who has been around a long time and you have to tip your hat to him tonight.”
Lauri Korpikoski extended the Coyotes lead to 2-0 late in the second period when, after a face-off win by Boyd Gordon, he grabbed a rebound and fired into the open side of the net.
The goal was Korpikoski’s third of the season and 50th of his career
“We just need to stay positive and stop making the little mental mistakes and get back to battling,” Korpikoski said. “We need to continue to finish the close games and try and get on a little run here with a couple of wins.”
With eight minutes left in the game, Nick Johnson put the Coyotes up by three when he took a pass in front from Yandle and fired it top shelf past Rinne.
Yandle closed out the Coyotes scoring with five minutes left in the game when he took a pass from Oliver Ekman-Larsson at the blue line and fired a shot past Rinne.
“Good to have some success at our style of play, nothing fancy about the game, just a solid performance for our guys,” Tippett said. “(Chad) Johnson did a good job in net and Nick Johnson came on strong and really showed what he can do for us, we can build upon this game.”
When Tippett was asked if Chad Johnson had earned a second consecutive start, he was noncommittal.
“They say if it ain't broke don't fix it,” Tippett said. “But I like to go by the saying, if it's not broke you haven't looked hard enough.”